[P]eople in the deepest parts of the South will literally flour and fry anything. Fish, chicken, shrimp, tomatoes, okra, pickles … you name it. If you can eat it, chances are someone in Mississippi has tried it fried. I’m convinced people down there would fry the sweet tea if they could only figure out how. The state is awash in grease.
But there’s more to it than that:
The reason I think Southerners are fat is the same reason I think my father is fat. It’s not that he’s lazy and doesn’t exercise. The man ran 1000 miles in his 40th year. He’s walked many times that distance since, much of it with bad hips and knees. At 75, he still tries to exercise with barbells.
The reason I think my father is fat (or was for most of his life) is because he has a love affair with the food experience. For him, the food experience goes beyond just food. It is an infinitely social thing, a finding of joy in the breaking of bread with his family and friends.
The food experience for him is finding joy in an abundance that he did not know as a poor kid growing up in the poor South. It is a recreation of Granny Holloway’s Sunday dinner, the maybe once-a-week meal in which he found plenty as a child, the one meal a week from which he did not walk away wanting more. It is a purely emotional response to food, a happiness found in satiety.
I’ve never had a bad meal in Mississippi.
And every time I see some spindly little TV tart getting medieval about Body Mass Index and other irrelevancies, I want to grab her by the arm and say “Girl, you need a sandwich. Now.” And I speak as someone who was born in Illinois, and northern Illinois at that.